The headframe at Goldcorp’s Cochenour project near Red Lake, Ontario. Courtesy of Goldcorp

Newmont’s US$10-billion acquisition of rival Goldcorp on Monday and Barrick Gold’s US$5.4-billion merger with Randgold in September have industry watchers speculating the gold mining sector could be kicking off a flurry of M&A activity.

Kieron Hodgson, a commodities and mining analyst with Panmure Gordon, noted that multiple gold miners have struggled with disappointing returns and declining stock prices for some time, and the moves could be to help rejuvenate investor interest in the sector.

Goldcorp, for example, has seen the value of its stock erode over the last several years from a high of $54 in 2011 when the gold price reached above US$1900 per ounce, to prices as low as $11.58 in October despite gold settling into the US$1250 range, and faced accusations of over-paying for project acquisitions that have proved uneconomic to develop. Newmont has fared better overall, but, trading at around US$31, lost a little more than half its value since a 2011 high of US$65.46.

“There’s an issue with gold, and gold mining companies being relevant for investors,” he said. “With subscale returns for shareholders, why would anyone need to invest in gold companies?”

Related: Newmont-Goldcorp deal knocks Barrick-Randgold from world’s largest gold miner spot

Multiple CEOs in the sector have made similar assessments. Barrick’s new CEO Mark Bristow told Bloomberg in early January that the gold mining sector has “too few assets with too many management teams, and it needs reorganization.” He said he expected that the Barrick-Randgold merger was the start of an industry “transformation.”

Agnico Eagle CEO Sean Boyd also told Bloomberg that he expected to see more partnerships in the sector, stating that it was “a move to reduce the number of players to better match the number of higher quality opportunities that exist in the space.”

Hodgson said only time will tell whether these big moves will generate strong returns. “Some mergers and acquisitions are accretive to shareholders, others certainly in the mining space have been known to be very disruptive. History doesn’t bode well,” he said, referring to major deals like Barrick’s US$5-billion takeover of Equinox Minerals in 2011 and Newcrest Mining’s US$9-billion acquisition of Lihir Gold in 2010. Both miners had to later sell assets and cut debt as the price of gold plummeted in 2015.

Hodgson warned that gold investors should be “wary” of marginal mining projects once declared as uneconomic being repackaged and promoted again as buying opportunities. “I see a huge potential for conflicts of interest in the next 12 to 18 months,” he said.